Charismatic Speaking: How to Make an Impact as a
When Arkansas governor Bill Clinton, in his nominating speech for
Michael Dukakis at the 1988 Democratic National Convention, spoke the
words, “In closing … ,” a roar went up in the convention hall. He was
Fortunately for him, his 1992 speech, accepting his own nomination, got
much better marks. In fact, some said it was the best speech of his
life. Not only was it important as a kickoff for his first presidential
campaign, but Clinton erased once and for all the memory of that dud
four years earlier.
That story has at least three important points. One, you’re never too
good or too experienced to ignore some of the fundamentals of good
speaking. Two, you can give an occasional poor speech and still retain
your charisma, as Clinton did in the intervening four years. And
three–and most important–the ability to communicate well to groups of
people can make a critical difference in your career. In fact, a study
conducted by AT&T and Stanford University revealed that the top
predictor of professional success and upward mobility is how much you
enjoy and how good you are at public speaking. Yet surveys also show
that the number one fear of most adults (even above death) is speaking
Now there’s a contradiction for you: The best thing for anyone’s career
is also what we most fear!
The ability to speak confidently is one of the most marketable skills
you can acquire. Organizations continually seek individuals who can
sell products, present proposals, report findings, and explain ideas
effectively. It’s no coincidence that more than 50 percent of
Toastmasters clubs are in-house corporate or government groups.
Audiences, accustomed now to slick media, are less tolerant than ever
of marginal presentation skills. So the ante has been upped, the bar
has been raised, on what level of public speaking is now needed to get
your message across.
Here are some other tricks of the trade:
1. Really care about your subject. Passion is the starting point of
all good public speaking. Peggy Noonan, President Reagan’s celebrated
speechwriter, describes a speech as “poetry: cadence, rhythm, imagery,
sweep! [It] reminds us that words, like children, have the power to
make dance the dullest beanbag of a heart.”
So pick a subject that has an inordinate impact on you, a subject
you’d like to share with others because you know, intensely, that they
could benefit from your knowledge. Your enthusiasm will show through.
2. Be brief. The best way to impress an audience is to finish early.
“My father gave me this advice on speech making,” said James Roosevelt,
son of FDR: “Be sincere … be brief … be seated.” So hit it hard,
hit it well, finish strong, and, for maximum impression, keep it short.
The less opportunity you give your audience’s minds to wander, the more
they’ll appreciate you and remember what you had to say.
3. Make use of memory joggers. You can keep attention high and help
people remember your message if you use ample examples to transmit your
message powerfully. Similarly, statistics, if used sparingly and
presented simply, can add drama and credibility to your message.
Comparisons can help your audience evaluate different options quickly
and logically, and testimony–personal stories of credible people–can
make your message more memorable and believable.
4. Remember the pause that refreshes. The sweet sound of silence, the
power of the pause, can be artfully used in any speech. Pauses are not
really empty spaces. Instead, they’re opportunities for the audience to
respond to your words with their own thoughts, images, and feelings.
“The right word may be effective,” Mark Twain said, “but no word was
ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.”
5. Don’t dawdle at the finish line. Good speakers understand that the
end is just as important–and maybe more so–as the beginning. This is
your chance to sum up your best thoughts, words, and images and imprint
them indelibly on the audience’s collective brain. Don’t miss that
opportunity by running beyond your time limit, or fumbling your final
message. Know what you want to say, say it, and then say good night.
Adapted from Charisma: Seven Keys to Developing the Magnetism that Leads
to Success, © by Tony Alessandra, PhD, from Warner Books (February 1998),
ISBN: 0-446-52049-7, $24. Dr. Alessandra, recognized as “one of America’s
Most Electrifying Speakers” by Meetings & Conventions Magazine, is the
author of 13 books. For more information about all his books, audio and
video programs visit
www.alessandra.com/products.asp or to take his
management style test visit
www.platinumrule.com or call (702)567-9965.